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The UK is home to some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes and National Parks in the world. And with this, there are thousands of miles of long distance trails to explore all corners of the UK. From the rugged coastlines of the South West to the beautiful and rolling hills of the Cotswolds, the UK has something for everyone.
In this article, we will highlight the top 10 long-distance trails in the UK, showcasing the unique features and attractions of each one.
Whether you are an experienced hiker looking for a fresh challenge or new to the wonderful pastime of long distance hiking and looking to explore the great outdoors, these trails offer unforgettable experiences and breathtaking scenery and will be sure to leave a lasting impression.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a beautiful coastal trail that winds along the rugged coastline of Pembrokeshire, a county in southwest Wales. The trail stretches for 186 miles (299 kilometers). Along the coast path. Along the way hikers can enjoy continuous views of the Irish Sea, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna.
The path starts in the fishing town of St. Dogmaels in the north, and ends in Amroth in the south. Along the way, hikers can visit a number of charming towns and villages, including Tenby, which is known for its beautiful beaches, colourful houses and medieval walls.
One of the highlights of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is the stretch of coastline known as the “Green Bridge of Wales.” Here, hikers can see a striking natural arch formed by the sea, as well as a number of secluded coves and bays.
Other attractions along the trail include the National Trust-owned Colby Woodland Garden, which is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. In addition Castell Henllys Iron Age Fort also makes an excellent rest-day excursion and offers a glimpse into Wales’ rich history.
Overall, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a must-do for any hiking enthusiast, offering a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural history.
The Dales Way
The Dales Way is a beautiful long-distance walking trail that runs for 78 miles (126 kilometers) through the stunning, yet delightfully quiet Yorkshire Dales in Northern England. The route starts in the historic market town of Ilkley and ends in the charming town of Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District.
Along the way, walkers will pass through idyllic countryside, rolling hills, and picturesque English villages and hamlets. The trail takes you through the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, where you’ll be able to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in England.
One of the highlights of the Dales Way is the breathtaking views of the Yorkshire Dales. The rolling hills and valleys offer plenty to see and enjoy. The route also takes you through some charming villages, where you can stop and sample some of the local produce, including delicious Yorkshire cheeses and ales.
Overall, the Dales Way is a wonderful trail that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a relaxing stroll, this trail is sure to provide you with an unforgettable experience.
The Yorkshire Wolds Way
The Yorkshire Wolds Way is a National Trail that runs for 79 miles (127 km) across the Yorkshire Wolds in northern England. It starts in the market town of Hessle, near Hull, and ends in the town of Filey, on the east coast. Along the way, it passes through picturesque villages and rolling hills, offering beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
The trail was officially opened in 1982, and has become a popular destination for walkers and hikers. It can be tackled in one go, or in smaller sections. There are also several circular routes that allow you to explore the area in more depth.
One of the highlights of the Yorkshire Wolds Way is the views across the River Humber and the Humber Bridge.
As you walk along the trail, you’ll encounter a variety of wildlife, including sheep, cows, and birds of prey. You’ll also have the opportunity to explore the rich history of the area, with many historic landmarks and attractions along the way, such as the old market town of Beverley.
Overall, the Yorkshire Wolds Way is a beautiful and varied trail that offers something for everyone. It’s also much quieter than other more popular trails, making it an excellent retreat away from the crowds of the Lake District. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll, you’ll find plenty to enjoy on this delightful National Trail.
The Anglesey Coast Path
The Anglesey Coast Path is a stunning hiking trail that runs along the beautiful coastline of Anglesey, an island off the coast of Wales. The trail is approximately 186 miles long and offers outstanding views of the Irish Sea and Snowdonia National Park.
The path is a great way to explore the island’s diverse landscape, which includes sandy beaches, rocky coves, and lush forests. Along the way, hikers will come across several charming villages and historical landmarks, including the old fishing village of Cemaes Bay and the medieval castle of Beaumaris.
One of the highlights of the trail is the Parys Mountain Copper Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once one of the largest copper mines in the world. Hikers can take a guided tour of the mine and learn about its fascinating history.
The Anglesey Coast Path is also a great place for birdwatching, with over 200 species of birds spotted along the trail. Some of the most commonly seen birds include peregrine falcons, redshanks, and guillemots.
The trail is well-marked and well-maintained, making it accessible to hikers of all levels. There are several options for accommodation along the way, including campsites, B&Bs, and hotels.
For those looking for a shorter hike, the Anglesey Coast Path can also be broken down into several shorter sections, allowing hikers to choose a route that suits their ability and interests.
Overall, the Anglesey Coast Path is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a unique and memorable outdoor adventure. With its stunning scenery, rich history, and diverse wildlife, it offers something for everyone.
The Fife Coast Path
The Fife Coast Path is a scenic walking route located in the Kingdom of Fife, Scotland. The path stretches for 117 miles (188 km) along the coast, offering stunning views of the North Sea and the Firth of Forth. Along the way, you’ll pass through charming fishing villages, sandy beaches, and stunning cliff-top landscapes.
The Fife Coast Path is a great way to experience the rich history and natural beauty of this part of Scotland. You’ll have the opportunity to see a wide variety of wildlife, including seals, dolphins, and a multitude of seabirds.
One of the highlights of the Fife Coast Path is the town of St. Andrews, known worldwide as the home of golf. Here, you can visit the historic Old Course, where the game of golf has been played for over 600 years.
As you walk the Fife Coast Path, you’ll also have the chance to sample some of the local cuisine, including fresh seafood and traditional Scottish dishes. There are plenty of cozy pubs and restaurants along the way where you can refuel and relax after a day of walking.
Overall, the Fife Coast Path is a must-do for anyone who loves the great outdoors and wants to experience the best of what Scotland has to offer. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll, the Fife Coast Path has something for everyone.
Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Path
Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Path is a challenging yet rewarding long-distance walking route that stretches across northern England, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. The path is approximately 190 miles (306 km) long and passes through some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes in the country, including the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and the North York Moors.
One of the standout features of the Coast to Coast Path is the variety of landscapes it passes through. As you walk, you’ll encounter everything from rolling hills and peaceful meadows to rugged fells and stunning coastlines. The route also passes through a number of charming villages and towns, providing opportunities to stop and explore along the way.
In addition to the beautiful scenery, the Coast to Coast Path is also rich in history and culture. As you walk, you’ll pass by a number of historic landmarks, including medieval castles and ancient monasteries. You’ll also have the chance to learn about the region’s rich industrial heritage, with stops at old mines and former mills along the way.
Overall, the Coast to Coast Path is a true adventure that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking for a challenging trek or a nature lover in search of stunning views and rich history, the Coast to Coast Path is the perfect choice.
The Great Glen Way
The Great Glen Way is a long-distance hiking trail in Scotland that stretches for 117 miles (188 km) from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east. The trail passes through the Great Glen, a series of valleys and lochs that includes Loch Ness, famous for its alleged monster.
The Great Glen Way offers a variety of landscapes and experiences, from the rugged mountains of the Scottish Highlands to the calm waters of the lochs.
Along the way, hikers can visit historic sites such as the ruins of Urquhart Castle and Fort Augustus Abbey, and take in beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The trail is typically completed in 7-8 days, although experienced hikers may be able to finish it in less time.
Accommodation is available at various points along the route, including bed and breakfasts, hotels, and campsites. The Great Glen Way is a challenging but rewarding hike that offers a unique opportunity to experience the beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
The Cumbria Way
The Cumbria Way is a national trail in northern England that stretches for 72 miles (116 km) from Ulverston to Carlisle. The trail passes through some of the most beautiful and unspoiled countryside in the Lake District National Park. Along the way, hikers will have the opportunity to explore picturesque villages and bustling market towns, as well as a number of natural wonders such as Tarn Hows and Coniston Water.
The trail is suitable for experienced hikers and is typically completed in six to eight days. It can be walked in either direction, but many people choose to start in Ulverston and end in Carlisle.
The Cumbria Way is well marked and easy to follow, with clear signposts and waymarks along the route. There are also a number of guidebooks and maps available to help hikers plan their trip.
Overall, the Cumbria Way is a fantastic trail for anyone looking to explore the beautiful landscapes of the Lake District. It offers a diverse range of landscapes, from rugged mountains to tranquil valleys, and provides a great opportunity for hikers to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of this picturesque region.
The Cleveland Way
The Cleveland Way National Trail is a 108-mile long-distance footpath that runs through the North York Moors National Park in northern England. The trail was first opened in 1969 and is maintained by the National Park Authority and the Cleveland Way Association. The route begins in Helmsley and winds its way through the North York Moors, passing through picturesque villages and dramatic coastline before ending at the bustling town of Filey.
Along the way, hikers will have the opportunity to explore a diverse range of landscapes, from heather-covered moors and ancient woodlands to rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. The Cleveland Way also passes through some of the most historic and culturally significant sites in the region, including the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, the imposing Whitby Abbey, and the charming seaside village of Staithes.
One of the highlights of the Cleveland Way is the stunning views it offers of the North Sea and the surrounding countryside. Hikers can stop at any of the numerous viewpoints along the route to take in the breathtaking scenery and spot some of the local wildlife, including red grouse, curlews, and even the occasional peregrine falcon.
The Cleveland Way is a challenging but rewarding trail that is suitable for experienced hikers. Whether you are looking to tackle the entire trail or just a section of it, the Cleveland Way offers an unforgettable experience for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
The Cotswold Way
The Cotswold Way is a 102-mile long-distance footpath that runs through the Cotswold Hills in England. The trail was first officially designated in 2007 and is maintained by the National Park Authority and the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens. The route begins in the historic market town of Chipping Campden and winds its way through the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, passing through quaint villages and charming countryside before ending in the city of Bath.
Along the way, hikers will have the opportunity to explore a variety of landscapes, from green fields and rolling hills to ancient woodlands and historic sites. The Cotswold Way also passes through some of the most picturesque and well-preserved villages in the region, including the honey-colored stone buildings of Broadway, the charming market town of Tetbury, and the beautiful gardens of Hidcote Manor.
One of the highlights of the Cotswold Way is the stunning views it offers of the surrounding countryside. Hikers can stop at any of the numerous viewpoints along the route to take in the breathtaking scenery and spot some of the local wildlife, including red kites, badgers, and even the occasional deer.
The Cotswold Way is a challenging but rewarding trail that is suitable for experienced hikers. It is typically completed in 10 to 14 days, although some dedicated hikers have been known to complete the entire route in a single week. Whether you are looking to tackle the entire trail or just a section of it, the Cotswold Way offers an unforgettable experience for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
The Pennine Way
The Pennine Way is a 268-mile trail that runs through the beautiful and rugged landscapes of the Pennines in northern England. The trail begins in the Peak District National Park and ends in the Scottish Borders, passing through some of the most stunning and remote areas of the country along the way.
Hikers on the Pennine Way will have the opportunity to explore a wide range of landscapes, from rolling hills and peaceful meadows to rugged moors and wild moorland. The trail also passes through some of the most historic and culturally significant sites in the region, including the beautiful waterfall at High Force, and preserved remains of Hadrian’s Wall.
One of the highlights of the Pennine Way is the stunning views it offers of the surrounding countryside. Hikers can stop at any of the numerous viewpoints along the route to take in the breathtaking scenery and spot some of the local wildlife, including red grouse, curlews, and even the occasional golden eagle.
The Pennine Way is a challenging but rewarding trail that is suitable for experienced hikers. It is typically completed in 15 to 20 days, although some dedicated hikers have been known to complete the entire route in a single week. Whether you are looking to tackle the entire trail or just a section of it, the Pennine Way offers an unforgettable experience for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
The South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path is a 630-mile long-distance walking route along the coast of South West England. Designated in 1973, it is maintained by the National Park Authority and South West Coast Path Association. Starting in Minehead, Somerset, the path follows the coast around the peninsula to Poole Harbour in Dorset.
Along the way, hikers can explore the diverse and beautiful coastline, including rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and tranquil estuaries, as well as charming coastal towns and villages. The path offers stunning views of the sea and surrounding countryside, as well as the opportunity to spot local wildlife such as seabirds, dolphins, and seals.
Although challenging, the South West Coast Path is suitable for experienced hikers and can be completed in 40 to 60 days, although some hikers have completed the entire route in one season. Whether tackling the entire trail or just a section, the South West Coast Path offers an unforgettable experience for nature lovers.
West Highland Way
The West Highland Way is a long-distance walking route in Scotland, stretching for 154 miles from Milngavie, a suburb of Glasgow, to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.
The West Highland Way passes through a variety of landscapes, including moorland, forests, and glens, and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, including Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK.
Along the way, hikers can explore charming villages and towns, such as Drymen and Tyndrum, and stop at a number of viewpoints to take in the breathtaking scenery. The West Highland Way is a challenging but rewarding trail that takes most hikers around a week to complete. Whether you are looking to tackle the entire route or just a section of it, the West Highland Way offers an unforgettable experience for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
‘Adventure’ seems to be a word that eludes many parents.
Despite having previously been adventurous, I found myself frustrated by how limiting being a parent can feel.
It’s all in my head of course, and just a matter of re-framing what adventure looks like when you have kids. Some parents work this out straight away, and others like me, yearn for the ‘good old days’ where I could roam free and unburned by the shackles of parenthood.
Not wanting to be a parent that regrets spending too little time with my kids, I decided the best place to start, was simply by doing something about it.
I had actually been planning on finally getting my long-distance hike groove for some time now.
I spend a lot of my time talking to other long-distance hikers on the Distance Hiker Podcast, but very little time actually doing it.
So, with weeks of excitement, as the weekend got closer, I planned my route.
But, there was a catch.
I wanted to make my own trail.
As somebody who is naturally creative, the idea of making my own trail seemed exciting.
I want to make a trail, and eventually a series of trails for people like me. Busy folks, with not a load of time, who wanted to experience the joys of long distance hiking within the comfortable confines of a weekend.
On Monday, they could then return to the workplace, and gleefully tell their colleagues of their adventures.
The rules of my trail were simple.
- It could be no more than 15km per day, preferably less, giving time to enjoy all the trail has to offer.
- It had to be interesting, and prioritise interest over being the most direct route
- It had to be easy to navigate.
- There must be a choice of accommodation, from campsite to B&B.
- Public transport of reasonable timing and available to return to the start or access cities for convenience.
With these rules in mind, I downloaded the OS mapping software and worked out a route.
The route was to start in Hathersage, taking walkers up Stanage Edge, before dropping down into Bamford and Hope.
The second day would see walkers ascend Win Hill, before taking on the skyline above Castleton, and then descending to Edale.
It seemed simple enough, so we set off around 3 pm after my work on Friday.
Our plan worked brilliantly, with Noah, my 6 (almost 7) year old smashing through the miles, before hitting the top of Stanage and supposedly running out of steam.
With the promise of ice cream and a short break on my shoulders, I encouraged him to keep on going.
In hindsight, it would have been nice to stop on the top of Bamford moor when he told me he was tired and had enough, but I wasn’t prepared with a water filter or shovel for a spontaneous overnight camp out so we pushed into Bamford.
We cut the walk short at Bamford as Noah was tired and hungry and another hour on the trail seemed like torture to him (and me). We headed towards the train station.
At the station, we met a lady who told us of the Saturday rail strikes.
That had scuppered my plans to walk to Edale the following day, and catch the train back to Hathersage.
I needed a new plan.
At the campsite, Noah abandoned me for his new friend Ben and had found his energy again, with them both running laps of the campsite. I shared a beer with Ben’s dad, before planning my route for the next day – running back to Hathersage along the Derwent Valley Heritage Way.
I want to walk the Derwent Valley Heritage way as a 2 day challenge, so it was lovely to walk a section of it to get an idea of how this would feel.
After a rough night, mostly due to my newfound inability to get comfortable in a tent (this never used to be an issue!) we woke up, said our goodbyes to our new friends, and departed.
The walk back was blissful. Noah dragged his heels a bit, but I reminded myself there was no rush, and we stopped at several points along the river to dip our feet in, and to watch the wildlife. I pinged the location of these secret spots to my partner, for future days out when it’s hot, and the kids need a paddle.
We eventually walked back to the car, where within 5 minutes of driving, Noah was snoring in the back seat.
“Suddenly the cloud the caught up with me. A dense, white fog swallowed up everything around me, an advancing front of claustrophobia taking no prisoners”
That was my immediate thought as I momentarily paused my hasty decent to look back up the slope I had just scrambled down. I was performing the half run, half skid which anyone who has tried to descend a trail in pouring rain will know well.
Miniature rivers gushed around my feet as I tried to identify the stones that wouldn’t give way beneath me. Just a few metres above me, thick, white clouds were chasing me down the slope – and by my calculation, they would overtake me in a matter of minutes.
Just moments ago, I had been over two kilometres up in the sky, straddling the Slovenian-Austrian border. I had summited Mount Stol, the highest peak in the Karavank Range at over 2,200 metres. For a few minutes, I felt like I was the only person in the world, surrounded by nothing but rock, cloud and thin air.
But as I stood taking in the otherworldly views, my reward after hiking hours in the blistering heat, something in my skin tingled. It wasn’t just the awe-inspiring sea of peaks which lay before me. It was that sixth sense, that instinct possessed by any outdoors nut that it’s all about to go tits up if you don’t act fast, which was speaking to me.
And I was right. The moment I stepped down off the summit and began to descend the path leading down the exposed scree slope, clouds rolled in quicker than I have ever seen and a low cymbal crash of thunder echoed through the sky.
Alright, time to scram, I thought. Minutes later, the sky was alive with an orchestra of thunderclaps and lightning streaks, rain was pouring down and visibility was disappearing fast. And I was still a good couple of hours from the bottom.
This was not a possible situation I had presented to my university supervisor when going through the risk assessment for my undergraduate research project (and, if anyone asks, never happened). In fact, I wasn’t technically here to climb any mountains at all, but rather to research bees, wasps and other pollinators. I’m an ecology student, so when the opportunity came up to design our own year project, I thought what better way to combine some meaningful research with a mountain adventure?
My hypothesis was simple, in theory: assess whether hydropower dams affect pollinator abundance along rivers. I’ll break this down, as I realise there is perhaps more than one foreign word in that sentence to most.
We have seen a building spree of hydropower dams across Europe, built to quench the thirst for energy that comes with a rapidly developing continent. Whilst many people see them as a source of pure, green energy, what are often forgotten are the environmental consequences which come with dividing up rivers and the ecosystems which depend on them.
There has been a recent flurry of smaller dam constructions, projects which you could definitely argue do not produce enough electricity for the ecological disturbance they cause. The aim of my research is not to pass judgement (I’ll leave that to the experts), but simply to investigate whether there is an effect on entomofauna (or insect life, to me and you), and pose that this needs to be taken into consideration when planning construction.
To my knowledge, nobody has looked at any effects of dams on pollinators. We know that the habitats surrounding rivers are high in biodiversity, thanks to the rich nutrient flow from the water.
Many studies have been done on the impacts on aquatic species under the water, and we know that disturbance from dam construction affects soil composition and plant life, too. So I wanted to take it one step further and see how pollinators were faring amidst all this; after all, with such a rapidly growing human population to feed, sufficient pollination of crops and other edible plants is an ever more pressing issue.
So having convinced my tutors that this was indeed an exciting, unique bit of research to be done, I was given the green light to head out to collect data. I wanted to head outside of the UK for my research; not only in an attempt to sate my curiosity to see more of the world but also since there is already a huge amount of biodiversity data from British studies.
After reading that Slovenia was one of Europe’s biodiversity hotspots and had recently declared the honeybee a national animal, this seemed like the perfect location to spend two weeks hiking up mountains and along riverbanks. I focused my research on the River Sava, the largest tributary of the Danube, whose upper reaches in northwest Slovenia were peppered with hydropower dams of varying sizes.
So began 15 days of mountains, rivers and bug counting. For each site I had chosen, I would hike for around two hours to the location, then take transects (walking 100m and counting whichever insects you see a metre either side of you) up and downstream of a dam to compare if the number of pollinators differed. This would take another couple of hours or so, then leaving me with the rest of the afternoon and evening to go and explore.
Of course, I had factored in a few extra days in case of bad weather (bees are famously not fans of wet weather). But I was mostly blessed with full sun, so I took the odd day out to do full day hikes and summit some of the higher peaks around me, as well as my daily, smaller evening hikes.
One of the best things about hiking in Slovenia is the trail infrastructure, mainly thanks to the country’s strong mountaineering culture which has been present for the last century or so. Mount Triglav, the country’s highest peak, is considered a right of passage for any Slovenian.
I discovered that most trails are extremely well marked, meaning you can spend less time with your nose in a map (most tourist places hand out the equivalent of OS maps for free) and more time absorbing your surroundings. For someone with an occasionally questionable sense of direction, not getting lost once in two weeks was quite something.
And the surroundings are breathtaking. For the most part of my stay, I was in a campsite near Jesenice, an industrial town just south of the Austrian border lying. The town lies in the valley of Lake Bled and is surrounded by a network of incredible granite peaks rising above the Sava River.
Slovenia boasts 60% forest cover, creating a nexus of habitats for wildlife to thrive. Since I was a silent solo hiker, almost every time I went out I would encounter deer, foxes, eagles or the odd marmot. I even had one young male deer try to rut with me – quite different to the fleeting glimpses of muntjacs we’re accustomed to in the UK!
But perhaps one of the most special natural phenomena I experienced took place every evening. Just as dusk began to set in and the sky was painted deep indigo, hundreds of fireflies would appear for about an hour. I remember after one particularly long day, I misjudged the distance back to camp and was trudging wearily back along the river when I looked up to see a swirling haze of tiny, green orbs twinkling all around me. Not only is this an otherworldy experience, it also is a good indicator of how healthy the ecosystems are. If you are in Slovenia, I can’t recommend enough taking at least one evening to walk alongside a lake or river to experience this.
Wildlife aside, the people were also among the friendliest I have encountered. Especially at weekends, you would regularly be greeted by cheerful locals enjoying the trails. And multiple times after simply asking for directions, people would take an interest in what I was up to and invite me in, offering water, a cool beer or even some homemade pastries.
In fact, as a young, solo female hiker, I don’t think I have ever felt safer in any country. Hard to pinpoint why exactly, but the female travellers reading this will relate when I say you just learn to ‘read the air’ in a place. So I was more than happy to spend hours out on the trails enjoying some headspace and unspoilt nature.
And this is how I ended up scrambling down Stol in a flash storm.
Should I take cover under a tree and wait to see if it will pass? I thought. No, there’s too much lightning overhead to want to be under trees this far up and it’s going to be dark in a few hours (no long northern European summer nights here).
There wasn’t anywhere to stop anyway, the path just kept winding steeply down, zigzagging left and right apparently whenever it felt fit.
Suddenly the cloud caught up with me. A dense, white fog swallowed up everything around me, an advancing front of claustrophobia taking no prisoners. My gage of how far I had to go was totally lost and I had to intently focus just to see where I was placing my feet.
Just keep going, inch by inch, until you get down, I told myself. That’s the only thing you can do right now. So that’s what I did, displaying a magnificent array of side steps, lunges and skids, painstakingly working my way down the mountain.
It’s funny how meditative situations like this can be. One moment you’re a tiny speck in awe of the vastness of the outdoors, the next you’re in your own microcosm, only seeing what’s five feet in front of you and listening to the endless monsoon of raindrops. It was like someone had put cotton wool over my eyes and ears. Sure, I had prepared all I could, brought all the equipment I could possibly need, had sought advice from locals before heading up, but still, the mountains still take you by surprise and teach you more.
And then, after spending nearly two hours like this (I checked later since at the time I had no idea how much time had passed in my descent), I popped out below the fog, like a cork out of a bottle of fine, Slovenian wine. A stunning alpine meadow lay before me, a scene that seemed to breathe out serenity in the same manner any back garden does after rain. A sweet, damp freshness filled the air.
The landscape was slowly crawling back to life; birds were beginning to sing again and insects started buzzing around me once more.
I instantly knew where I was; I had passed this meadow a short while into my ascent, and I was only a few hundred metres from the bottom. What gushed through me was not a sense of relief, but one of gratitude; that Stol had welcomed me up its slopes, granted me its summit, then gobbled me up, chewed and spat me back out in one piece again – and this time with a little more humility and experience.
I turned around and gazed back up at where I had come from. The tip of the peak was just emerging from the mist.
“Hvala, Stol” I shouted at the top of my lungs back up to the mountain.
“Thank you, Stol.”
You have a week of leave you forgot to take, you know you want to spend it walking, but where do you go?
This is what a member of our community recently asked, and as usual, the answers from our community members came out on top, with 28 excellent suggestions.
Here are the top picks:
The Cleveland Way, is a 110 mile National Trail that crosses remote upland moors, and coastal walking from Helmsley to Files in North Yorkshire.
The Trail is really well waymarked, and also well served by a good choice of campsites, suitable wild camping spots, and accommodation.
For food and drink lovers, the Cleveland way starts near the Helmsley Brewery, with handcrafted beer.
You will also pass Rievaulx Abbey, which was one of England’s most prominent Abbeys, complete with a museum. Of course, there Is the opportunity to walk up Roseberry topping, which rewards with stunning views of the landscape.
And if that’s not enough, the pretty coastal villages of Staithes, Runswick Bay, Whitby and Robin Hoods bay should make the trail particularly appealing.
Yorkshire Wolds Way
If you like quieter walks, with a focus on peaceful walking, away from other walkers then the Yorkshire Wold’s Way may be an excellent choice.
Often overlooked by walkers due to its neighbouring trail the Cleveland Way. The Yorkshire Wolds Way has rolling countryside, and excellent views, with good tracks and waymarks throughout.
The route starts at Humber with impressive views of the River, and stretches over 87 miles, across the Yorkshire Wolds to Files.
Expect patchwork fields, an abundance of wildflowers, butterflies and birdlife.
Overall, the Yorkshire Wolds Way is a peaceful route, with little in the way of big climbs, and can be walked year round due to the trails condition.
Snowdonia Slate trail
The Snowdonia Slate Trail is an almost circular 83 mile route, starting in Bangor, and finishing in Bethesda.
The route covers 83 miles of countyside, in the unique slate landscape – which is North Wales latest World Heritage Site, in the Snowdonia National Park.
Experience the unique slate landscape of North Wales` latest World Heritage Site and enjoy the wonders of the Snowdonia National Park.
The trail takes you through some of the less visited parts of the National Park, while also allowing you to experience the popular villages of llanberis and Betws y Coed.
Starting in Avebury, the ridgeway takes walkers 87 miles through a remote part of central England to Ivinghoe Beacon, northwest of London.
The route itself is a historic Roman road, and thus known as ‘Britain’s oldest road’ and still follows the same route, used through the centuries.
Today is makes an excellent waymarked long distance walk, and offers excellent views across rolling chalkland, and pleanty of history, such as Iron Age forts.
The Ridgeway is an accessible walk from most capitals, and particularly beautiful in the spring when the bluebells are in bloom, and the ground better underfoot.
Northumberland Coast Path
The Northumberland coast Path is a fantastic walk for a week of relaxing seaside long distance walking. The long windswept beaches of Northumberland make for a striking landscape, which is graced with history, and over 7000 years of human activity, including a good number of Castles!
The route is 62 miles in length, so one of the shorter routes here, and takes walkers from Cresswell in the South to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the North.
The path offers walkers a remarkable walking experience.
Anglesey Coast Path
Anglesey, an island just off the North of Wales has a fantastic long distance route, at 130 miles in length around its circumference. The island falls within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural beauty, which accounts for around 95% of the coastline.
The landscape is diverse, from long stretches of open beach, forest, steep cliffs and farmland.
Highlights include the impressive South Stack lighthouse, Bwa Gwyn sea arches, the Menai Suspension Bridge, and the birdlife, flora, and fauna whom inhabit the island.
The extract below is from author Wayne Mullane, who write Adventure Dayze which recalls his experience as a non-hiker to walking up Britains highest mountain – Ben Nevis.
Yet the catch is that Wayne suffers from an acute fear of heights.
The chapter below, is titled Fitness.
Before I took up hiking as a hobby, most evenings saw me pitched up in front of the TV, stuffing my face with snacks. Consequently, over the period of a few years, my belly had felt like a slowly inflating rubber ring. I knew I needed to shed a few pounds and stop myself from becoming near comatose after work every day, but dieting has always felt far too regimented to me – and, besides, I like the idea of being free to eat a pie if I want to. That left exercise as my only option.
Going out for a run or to the gym didn’t appeal as – like I’ve said – I’d become too self-conscious of exercising in front of other people. Walking, however, gave me the impetus to exercise at my own pace and in my own way; it could be done fast or slow, and over any distance I wanted. Plus, it allowed me to be out and about, exercising in the fresh air while not having to experience the pressures of looking like a flapping fish being
reeled in by an angler – which is exactly what my running style looks like.
Yes, walking suited me down to the ground. A tight exercise regime or healthy lifestyle may be necessary for some, but personally, I needed to switch off once in a while, and – more importantly – eat cake guilt-free.
During 2016 and 2017, all I did was walk (with the addition of the occasional workout for Snowdon); short distances of a few miles once or twice a week were followed by six to 10
miles with Robin on alternating weekends. At this stage, Robin had a similar approach to me, and – by the time we did Snowdon in 2017 – this approach had definitely seen us through.
However, we believed Ben Nevis needed a little something extra. Yes, we’d managed to build up ongoing levels of fitness, but now we were going higher than we’d ever been before, and we knew we needed to respect the challenge by being a little more devoted to our health goals. When we’d been preparing for Scafell Pike, Aaron had told me that if we were able to walk the equivalent of the ascent and descent on flat ground on a regular enough basis, we’d be fine. As the total round trip for Ben Nevis is about eight miles, that wouldn’t be a problem – and
there’d be no harm in gaining that extra fitness to help sustain us in our undertaking.
So, by the start of 2018, Robin had hit the gym whilst Aaron and Robert remained committed to their jogging regime. I found myself in a state of ambiguity: on the one hand I wanted to exercise, but on the other I wasn’t sure how or where. Robin had given me a pep talk about going to the gym, saying that the best way to face my fear was simply to go there, but I wasn’t so sure. I put it off, then put it off some more.
With Robin’s words going round and round in my mind, I spent some time examining precisely why gyms and jogging didn’t cut it for me, and I came to the conclusion that it was precisely a case of others judging me. The guys constantly told
me not to worry about that and to focus on myself, but I just couldn’t help it – which was particularly strange as we all used to go jogging when we lived in Slough. Similarly, if I took up
a team sport, that would open my mind to being compared to teammates. I thought it was stupid for somebody my age to be so self-conscious – especially as it’s only ever to do with sport –
and while it’s not exactly an overwhelming sensation, it’s simply how I am.
I’d always thought that, as I aged, I’d become less inhibited about doing what I wanted to do, but that just didn’t seem to be the case. This was particularly strange as walking up mountains was, in part, about me challenging my fear of heights; why couldn’t I also challenge this dread I had concerning exercising in public?
Maybe this was exactly what it was: an age-related, self-contained, contradictory point of view. Or maybe, I pondered further, it was simply because these forms of exercise didn’t appeal
to me. If you tell me I have to run a quarter of a mile, I’ll shut down; if you tell me I have to walk 15 miles, before you can say ‘physical exercise’ my boots will be on and I’ll be out the door.
So, I found myself in a quandary. As Robert and Aaron pounded the streets and parks and as Robin pumped iron down at the gym, the lure of the sofa became attractive once again, particularly as January 2018 wore on. Regular walking had slowed down due to the colder weather, and although I toyed with the idea of buying weights and doing sit-ups and press-ups at home, the idea really didn’t appeal.
No, I needed something else. I needed something low budget and enjoyable. Something I wanted to do and would actually do.
It took me the best part of January to find a solution, and I can’t remember how or why I first decided to do it, but I started working out my own fitness programme. I borrowed a few ideas from exercise videos on YouTube, and soon I had my own regime in place that I could mix up with about fifteen or so different exercises to choose from. Plus, it was free (if you ignored
my monthly broadband payment).
I started small: 15 or 20 minutes at first, building up to no more than thirty minutes at a time. Then, as the weeks went by, I added new types of exercises and took others away, eventually
buying a pair of ankle weights to boost my efforts. I used my home to suit my regime: I gripped the tops of door frames to stretch out; I did standing press-ups against the kitchen worktops; and I pranced around the living room like an uncoordinated starfish as I stepped and jumped about.
As the routines varied in duration, I could quite happily complete a five or 10-minute workout some evenings and be happy with that – the important thing was that I remained
Finally, I’d found an answer that didn’t involve being in close proximity to judging eyes as I worked up a sweat.
Roughly around the same time, Robin and I began to diet. Since hitting forty, I’d grown more outward than upwards, and now seemed as good a time as any to tackle that. Although, as I’ve said, I find it hard being restricted to tight regimens, which inevitably led me to start snacking heavily again. As February turned into March – and with our walking time being restricted by heavy downpours of snow – a new lean, mean Robin had put
himself out there, whilst a fitter-slightly-less-fatter Wayne was now on display.
I was still battling between all-out exercise and all-out eating, living some kind of half-existence as I tried to satisfy two extremes. For all the crisps, sandwiches, and chocolate I ate, I’d
attempt to make up for it by doing an ultra-workout, but soon my body started telling me I was overdoing it. I’d leave longer gaps between workouts, even though I knew my efforts were at
risk of coming undone.
I didn’t want to give up exercising, though. I really enjoyed following exercise videos on YouTube and then incorporating
them into my own routines; it engaged both my brain and my body, in all sorts of ways. Regular exercise is well known to boost mood and I was keen to benefit from that.
Robin, Robert, and Aaron had kept on exercising, battling their own fitness demons, and I knew I needed an extra incentive to get me through – at least until the snow cleared and I could commit to regular distance walking again.
‘It’s all about your mindset, you know’, Robert told me one evening as he supped his pint.
‘Okay,’ I replied, a little uncertainly. I’d explained my predicament to him over after-work drinks as we waited for Robin to join us one early March evening. We were in Reading again– we spend a lot of time there.
‘Yeah,’ Robert replied. ‘You feel guilty for eating more food, so you punish yourself with full-on exercise.’
‘Go on,’ I encouraged him.
‘Eventually, you give up, because you find that trying to satisfy two complete opposites just doesn’t work,’ he continued with a nod.
‘So what do I do?’
‘Like I said, change your mindset. You like exercising, and you also like snacks, yeah? So, exercise to snack.’
‘Exercise to snack,’ I repeated, and a moment of clarity engulfed me. As I said this over and over again in my mind, a smile began to form on my face. I could force myself through gruelling workouts with the promise of a pork pie or a fondant fancy at the end – and feel guilt-free to boot!
‘Snackercise!’ I exclaimed happily.
‘Exactly. Just accept that what you’re already doing is okay and you’ll be fine. You’ll lose weight more slowly, but that doesn’t matter – so long as you’re okay with it.’
I was certainly okay with it; in fact, I celebrated my redefined moderately healthy lifestyle with a swig of my highly calorific pint. Really, I wouldn’t be doing anything different – I’d just have a fresh approach to motivate me. Plus, having a target like Ben Nevis to focus on gave me extra incentive to keep working out. Sure, the pounds didn’t exactly drop off, but I definitely became fitter as I occasionally increased my workouts
each week to supplement all the walking.
It really is amazing how just a few simple words gave me that much-needed clarity while forcing away the indecisiveness that had been holding me back. Mindset certainly is a powerful
So, by the time the Ben Nevis weekend rolled around, I might have been a few pounds heavier than I’d planned at the start of the year, but I was fitter than I’d felt in years and more than ready for the challenge.
You can purchase Adventure Dayze from Amazon.
You never quite feel like you are in charge when on Dartmoor
An invisible thread dictating your choices without making itself known
A sense that Dartmoor allows you to see what it wants you to see
So, you must be courageous to leave yourself open to the whims of the moor
Way markers mysteriously sucked into the moors leaving the hiker disorientated
Challenging you to keep moving forward in this barren landscape
The intrepid hiker knowing there are secrets to find if they stay resolute
This nowhere land trying to protect its identity except from the most unyielding
As the hiker starts to fall into a quiet acceptance of the moors attempts to challenge
The wind slowly raises its voice and attempts to shout you off your rhythmic stride
The misty rain persistently tries to drown out your positive thoughts
And the cold seeps under your vulnerable skin trying to weaken your resolve
You start to feel like you are the only person who exists on this isolated moor
The openness and emptiness start to play tricks with your thoughts
The doubt and criticism start to creep into your tired and exposed psyche
Leaving the hiker with a choice to push through or hand over all power to the moor
Your mind and body need rest, but you can’t just lay your weary head anywhere
We climb up to Hookney Tor desperate for respite from the discouraging conditions
The rocks offering us some protection from the elements for a small period of time
Could we respectfully put up our canvas shelter on this ancient Tor?
Our minds and bodies gave us no choice, they had no energy left to keep wandering
The wind through the rocks sounding like murmurs of ghosts from the past
Comforting and accepting of our daily efforts to become part of the moor
Gently giving us permission to rest our weary selves, like travellers of old would do
As we waited for dusk, we sat protected by the Tor drinking in the dramatic horizon
Looking at Grimspound stone circle below us imagining the mythical happenings
Slowly becoming part of a landscape that will teach you secrets of old
But only if you stay the path and open yourself up to be free from limitations
Our determination has let us become part of this landscape’s history
Our footprints permanently part of the stories whispered by the wind between the rocks
Our pilgrimage is now part of the past, present and future of this prehistoric scene
Our connection to the world has grown through the encounter with Dartmoor
And tomorrow we will get back up and do it all over again
Because we are hikers and that is what we do
We search for challenge, freedom, and the right to live the life we want
So will always continue to just put one foot in front of the other.
Written by Mark Wood after wild camping in Dartmoor June 2022.
“We want to give people the confidence to go out and do stuff and try new things they might be too nervous or scared to do and to be whoever they want to be.”
Autism and other forms of Neurodiversity are undoubtedly difficult to live with within a society structured around being ‘normal’.
We all celebrate difference when it’s put on a pedestal (Think Elon Musk, Anthony Hopkins, and Tim Burton), yet when we actually meet individuals on the Autism Spectrum, I believe we are collectively guilty of seeing them not as diverse, but simply different.
This is a shame. A shame for you and me, but also a shame for people like Ian and Eve, who are both Neurodiverse, and in their case, Autistic.
I say a shame, not because I am sorry for Ian and Eve, that they are Autistic, but because we miss the brilliance of their brains, which process the world around them differently from the rest of us.
Ian and Eve, through their remarkable challenge, hope to challenge the perception of Autism, and hope to inspire those with Autism to do things that may seem scary and to challenge the status quo on the perceptions of autism.
They are doing this through a remarkable walk from Dunnet Head, to the Lizard, the furthest point in Scotland, to the furthest point in England.
I messaged Ian to say hello, after he posted some photos in the community, and he agreed to answer some questions I had around the walk.
So without further ado, I introduce you to Ian and Eve.
Ian, and Eve, thanks for joining me. Please tell me a bit about yourselves.
We are a home educating family living in rural Scotland near Stirling. Myself (Ian) and Eve (age 8) are both autistic having both been diagnosed several years ago. And then there’s my wife Sarah, our dog and our 2 cats.
We are an outdoor family and love being outside whether it be walking, canoeing or camping etc in any weather.
Being outdoors, walking in particular, allows us to access places and experiences that most people will never have the privilege of experiencing or seeing.
The outdoors is both Eve and I’s ‘happy place’ and being outside in nature, in the hills, mountains and wild places lets us all be ourselves and feel happy and content. It takes away the everyday worries, that I know we all face, but for autistic people the ‘everyday’ can be so much more overwhelming. Being outdoors also removes us from some of the people who may judge or criticise us for being different, you will often hear us singing (out of tune) and laughing as we walk before you see us!
It gives us a very different perspective on life, a simpler existence where we can remove ourselves from social media, news, modern life in general and the pressures to conform….
For all of us, as a family, being outdoors in the ultimate freedom and liberation!
What inspired you to take on this particular challenge, over many of the other things you could have done to raise money?
We decided to take on this challenge to raise awareness of autism as both myself and Eve have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. (‘a word of caution… the official name is very controversial… because most people with autism argue it anything but a ‘disorder’, we do not call it a disorder).
Autism comes with lots of preconceived ideas, assumptions, and stereotypes. We wanted to show everyone that there is far more to being autistic than people often think and that being autistic doesn’t prevent people from achieving great things!
We wanted to do something of this scale to make people take notice and be both surprised and inspired by what we are doing and to realise that having a disability doesn’t mean one is not capable of doing or achieving their goals!
We want to give people the confidence to go out and do stuff and try new things they might be too nervous or scared to do and to be whoever they want to be.
We love walking and being outside. This is where both myself and Eve are at our happiest. Eve is naturally an adventurous child and we want to nurture this within her so she can go on and achieve great things.
It was actually Eve who suggested doing this walk! (and she is already talking about wanting to do another one next year!)
Eve is home educated and a massive part of her learning is done in the everyday (to give her education more context and real life applications). When out for a walk we will talk about the things we see from trees, to insects and clouds and integrate core skills such as reading, math and science.
Then once home (or in a tent, having a break etc) we will ‘Google’ the various questions she had that we don’t know the answers to, like ‘how old is the oldest tree?’. It is a fantastic way to learn and Eve is discovering so much on this journey, that we hope will give her an amazing life experience that she can learn from and look back on with pride in years to come.
How much preparation and planning has gone into your adventure?
There has been lots of planning and preparation that is still ongoing. We only plan a few days ahead as things can change so quickly and as a result plans have to change too.
We did a lot of research and planning on our route choices and gained a lot of insight from other people who have walked various sections. However, this is still adapting and changing all the time. Only the other day we changed a small section of our route due to not wanting to walk through a field full of cows, calves and bulls!
We also spent a long time researching equipment trying to find the best stuff for our budget that was lightweight but also durable enough for Scotland in March! However, even now we are still finding things that didn’t work or weren’t as good as we’d hoped.
Fitness wise, we didn’t do any specific training as we were already a fairly active family.
Which route are you choosing to follow?
We are trying to stick with as many national trails on route as we can just to try and make our lives that bit easier. As these are clearly signposted and you can get maps and guidebooks etc. However, this has not always been possible or the most convenient route to take. So we have done some cross country navigation too which has been interesting.
So far we followed the John o’Groats Trail which proved very difficult. We then did the Great Glen Way followed by the full West Highland Way. We then made our own way to Edinburgh following the canals and again chose our own route through the borders using a mixture of routes where we joined up with the Pennine Way on the Scotland/England border. And we’ll follow this all the way to Edale in the Peak District.
Yes. As a family, we all have a great love of the outdoors from walking to canoeing.
Eve and I have completed several long distance hikes including the Rob Roy Way and the Great Trossachs Path. All 3 of us completed the Berwickshire Coastal Path last year.
Back in 2020 we attempted the West Highland Way but had to stop on day 2 due to the first lockdown due to Covid 19. But we have completed it now as part of our route to Land’s End!
What message around Autism do you hope that people will take away from following your journey?
Autism affects approximately 1 in 100 people with girls often being misdiagnosed or diagnosed later in life.
When people think of autism they probably think of the stereotypical traits such as obsessive interest in specific topics, repetitive behaviors, structure and routine, communication difficulties, and public outbursts.
Although these traits may be true for some people (both neurotypical and neurodivergent) they do not represent the full spectrum of people with autism.
Every single person with autism is unique and has different characteristics and it is not fair or correct to assume everyone is the same simply because they have a diagnosis of ASD.
Autism has long been thought to affect boys more than girls with boys being 4 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
One reason for this massive underdiagnosis in girls is a phenomenon known as autism masking whereby a person disguises their autistic traits to ‘fit in’ with their neurotypical peers.
This is incredibly damaging to the individual resulting in constant exhaustion, explosive outbursts, and lifelong mental health issues. We want to try and make people aware of these issues and the potential for diagnosis where people can get the help and support that they need to better understand themselves.
We want to encourage people to be more open and understanding of people with autism. We may behave or act differently from others but that doesn’t mean we should be treated any differently.
That child still wants to be invited to his/her classmate’s birthday party even if they don’t like the noise and bring ear defenders so they can attend, for example.
Within every autistic person is the need to feel accepted for who they are and their unique and amazing personalities. With a little more understanding we want to try and ensure that everyone is accepted for who they are, regardless of autism or not!
Autism doesn’t have to prevent a person from achieving great things, on the contrary, it can be with the correct support and guidance harnessed and focussed to achieve things that can literally change the world… Elon Musk?
What have been the high points of your walk?
The walk so far has been fantastic. We have met some of the nicest and most generous people you could ever hope to meet.
Some of the best points by far are all the people we have met, the offers of help, words of encouragement, and the donations and support we have been offered. It’s been incredible and has blown my mind.
Some of the main things we can both take away from this challenge are how little you actually need and a deeper appreciation of the simple things in life such as a hot or cold drink!
What have been the hardest parts of your walk?
The hardest so far has been the North East coast of Scotland. The wind, rain, and cold were brutal in March.
Trying to tackle the north section of the John o’Groats Trail that in places where there is nothing more than a mud slide into a Geo, hundreds of feet above rocks and stormy seas, waves bigger than our house in 50mph winds with barbed wire everywhere was a huge mental and physical challenge.
What made it harder still (for me as a father) was trying to deal with the challenges and dangers enthusiastically, with energy and a sense of humour, to keep Eve motivated, engaged, and happy. We retreated to walking down the A9 for most of this route which felt like the lesser of two evils.
What can readers do to support you?
We have a Facebook page where we post daily updates on our progress
We have the charity page where supporters can donate to The National Autistic Society
We have a Go Fund me page to help us with costs of equipment, fuel, food, etc to complete our challenge
And also a Buy Me a Coffee fund where people can choose to buy Eve a treat such as an ice cream or chocolate bar, and myself a much needed coffee
Mark Wood, a member of our Community shared this touching poem with us. It was too good not to share, and was inspired by his walk along the South Down’s Way.
There’s always trepidation at the start of a hike
The hills in front of me feel overwhelming and fill me with doubt
They will try and break me and make me feel like I can’t go on
As I stand at the bottom looking up, I feel my confidence dispersing with the wind
How can I live this new life if I can’t conquer these rolling hills?
The path is rife with stones and rocks who mock my fancy walking shoes
Every step they bully the souls of my feet, trying to make me quit
My rucksack sits on my shoulders like the weight of a parent worrying over their child
It magnifies all the self-criticism that has been part of me for so long
How can I live this new life if I can’t conquer these rolling hills?
Very quickly though the realisation starts to seep into your being
Maybe these hills aren’t something to fear after all
You start to understand the magic of what is right in front of you
It isn’t about conquering the hills it is about learning from them
These hills have lessons to teach, and I am ready to be their student.
I started to use kind words instead of derogatory ones as I started to climb
I started to encourage myself rather than tell myself I can’t
I started to believe I could rather than thinking I would fail
I started getting to the top and feeling pride in my achievement
These hills have lessons to teach, and I am ready to be their student.
The weight of the rucksack was no longer a burden but a challenge
The stones on the path became a sign to slow down and watch every step
The top of the hill was no longer the focus, but the journey up was
The pain I felt in my body was now a reminder I was stepping out of my comfort zone
These hills have lessons to teach, and I am ready to be their student.
I was noticing the clouds in the sky, and the birds over head
I was noticing the array of flowers that lined the climb
I was noticing the aroma of the flora and air around me
I was noticing the sound of birdsong and my breath that kept propelling forward
These hills have lessons to teach, and I am ready to be their student.
I was slowly becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable
I was slowly starting to understand that hills made me feel good about myself
I was slowly starting to enjoy the burning muscles and aching joints
I was slowly learning that if you keep putting one foot in front of the other anything is possible
These hills have lessons to teach, and I am ready to be their student.
I am grateful to those hills for teaching me so many s for s
I am grateful to those hills for showing me how to be kind to myself
I am grateful to those hills for making me feel proud of myself many times a day
I am grateful to those hills for bringing me moments in time I won’t forget
These hills have lessons to teach, and I am ready to be their student.
Taking a leap of faith to live your dreams is never easy
But if you open your eyes and your heart there is so much to learn
So be brave and have faith in your choices
There is a world out there that will give back as much as you put in
The world has lessons to teach, and I am ready to be their student.
Mark Wood, 10th May 2022 After walking 70 miles of the South Downs Way.
I meet (virtually) a lot of people through Instagram.
Mostly, it involves me stumbling across somebody who long-distance walks, or something similar, getting excited and introducing myself, unannounced in their DM’s.
Stephanie Killingbeck-Turner, who is featured in this article is no exception. What prompted me to pop up in her inbox was that I’ve been consuming a lot of content about the environment in recent years.
Haven’t we all? It’s hard not to.
Slogans like, ‘There is no planet B‘, remind you that we are facing an inevitable mess if we don’t play our cards right and take the action needed to curb global warming, which has a huge domino effect on life here on our beautiful planet.
It’s hard not to be scared, especially with all the main media outlets sharing nothing but warnings of untold future horrors.
But what of those who are working hard to make positive change?
That’s where Stephanie comes with her walk from Lands End to John O’Groats while visiting environmental projects along the way, and inspiring us all to be activists and custodians of our planet. I’ll let Stephanie do the talking from here but
Hi Stephanie. It’s great to interview you. So, tell us a bit about yourself, and what inspired you to take on this challenge?
My environmental journey began with a plastic free July challenge in 2016. Over the intervening years my awareness of the climate crisis deepened. I joined local groups, took part in climate protests and gave a number of environmental talks and zero waste workshops. However I kept feeling drawn to greater action and in 2020 I left my job in the museum sector to begin volunteering on an organic farm in Scotland. Whilst this was a fulfilling experience, I came to feel that the actions we take, need to be bigger than the individual. As a keen walker and with the growing belief that community action is key to tackling climate breakdown the idea for this project was born.
Can you give some examples of the environmental projects you are visiting as you walk?
I am visiting a range of projects, some focus on nature and our connection with it, others look at how communities are coming together to tackle the climate crisis and a few offer courses to help people build the skills in this arena. The projects I am visiting include:
- The Eden Project
- Totnes Renewable Energy Society
- The Sustainability Centre
- Knepp Estate
- The Food Rescue Hub
- Ron’s Plot
- Green Meadows
- Incredible Edible
- Fossil Free West Yorkshire
- Transition Stirling
- Black Isle Brewery garden
- Trees for Life
What do you hope to achieve, in terms of awareness as you do the walk, and share it online and offline?
My main aims for this project are to raise awareness of the climate crisis and to inspire people to get out into nature and to build a relationship with it themselves. A relationship which will lead to a desire to look after and protect the natural world and the knowledge that they can do so through the many fantastic projects that are happening up and down the country.
Initially I thought this would be an online project however something I have really enjoyed is the conversations I’ve had with people along the way. I have had the opportunity to meet and chat with so many different people I would never meet in real life and the encouragement I have had has really spurred me on and made me feel that I am doing something worthwhile.
Have you done anything similar in the past?
I have done some long-distance walking. Each year my mum and I take on a new national trail however the longest we have done to date has been the two weeks of the Coast to Coast Path!
I have also been involved in environmental movements and attended protests but this is the first time I have combined the two.
What kind of preparation has gone into the walk, and what sacrifices have you made to do the walk?
I have a lot of spreadsheets! Initially, I started looking at routes, and then I switched tack to research projects. Once I had decided on the projects I wanted to visit I then looked at how to weave them together. I chose to follow National Trails or walks that already had planned routes and link them together myself.
Knowing I wanted to do a bigger project I had saved up some money, some of which I used to upgrade my gear and treat myself to some ultralight stuff knowing that I would be carrying it for a long time.
I knew that one of the biggest sources of waste on my trip was going to be re-supplying and so I made the decision to dehydrate backpacking meals to take with me. Given the environmental message of this project I wanted to try and be conscious of my own impact as well. It’s also nice to know that I’m getting a nutritious meal in the evening. The dehydrating was quite time consuming and my poor husband is still continuing to dehydrate meals for me in my absence! He sends resupply boxes to me which I collect from the projects I visit along with any maps or anything else I might need for the next stretch of the walk. Of course it is not possible to get everything I need this way and so I am picking up other food on route. Unfortunately a lot of this is in single-use packaging.
I was fortunate that having made the decision during the pandemic to give up my job and to do some volunteering (we have been wwoofing on the Black Isle) I was able to embark on this project relatively easily. The main challenge is being completely self-sufficient for such a long time. I am teaming up with friends and family at some points but of course I do miss them in between.
Where can we follow you and learn more about what you are doing?
You can follow me on Instagram or Facebook. I am posting under Steph’s Environmental Odyssey. I am also filming as I go along and hope to create a small film of the trip once I have completed the challenge. However I will share more about how people can view that via the social media channels once it has been completed.